Back on March 3rd, I wrote an in-depth post on cortisone shots after the news broke that ailing left-handed Jaime Garcia had been a recipient of one. I ended the post with what I considered a pretty bleak conclusion at the time:
"I strongly believe there is something mechanically wrong with his shoulder/pitching motion and that he will unfortunately have to work his way around it for the rest of his career."
Well, if Garcia is really "working his way around it" like I had suggested, the PITCHF/x data from BrooksBaseball certainly does not show it just yet. In terms of horizontal movement and velocity, Garcia's stuff has been at its best so far in 2014. Below, you will find the velocity and movement data on three of Jaime's five pitches:
As you can see from the charts (I apologize for their size) on these three pitches, Garcia's velocity and horizontal movement have increased on his fourseamer and sinker to levels higher than any year in the past. In fact, he never averaged velocities above 91 MPH with his fourseamer or sinker (from 2010 through 2013), and yet, in 2014, he is accomplishing this feat with both. Usually, a pitcher develops more velocity or more movement, but very rarely both. This is what makes Jaime's case particularly interesting, but at the same time, it leads to questions of sustainability, and it will be something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Let's now shift focus to the third chart looking at Jaime's changeup. Well, as lil_scooter93 noted while in charge of the VEB Twitter account during the game on Sunday:
Jaime Garcia's changeup is just really, really good, guys.— viva el birdos (@vivaelbirdos) June 8, 2014
His changeup's velocity has held steady (not unexpected), but its horizontal movement has increased by an inch (to 8.46 inches), when compared to its average of 7.47 inches coming into 2014. That is just not fair for opposing hitters. Home plate is 17 inches wide, and the horizontal movement on Jaime's changeup is just about half of it. That's impressive.
Finally, after a very brief look at his breaking ball numbers, it appears that he is throwing his slider 2.5-3 MPH slower than he did in the past, but he is experiencing more horizontal movement on the pitch (2014: -2.06 inches vs. 2010-2013: 0.69 inches). Horizontal movement on his curveball is slightly down, but he is experiencing more vertical movement than he had in the last two seasons. His breaking balls may have a big impact on his success as the season progresses, but his fastballs and changeup are the things worth noting so far.
To be frank, I am quite happy that he has, thus far, proven me quite wrong. Even if he does not pitch another inning for the Cardinals this season (please, do not be the case), 2014 has been a success. When he was shut down in Spring Training and received the cortisone shot, I had (wrongfully) assumed his season was over, and honestly, I was starting to question when the next time St. Louis would see Jaime, if at all. The fact that he has provided 31.2 starting pitcher innings so far this season is all a bonus in my mind.
What do you expect from Jaime the rest of the way?